Old Western Auto building will be store, two apartments

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 28, 2004

[1/27/04]The former Western Auto building on Washington Street will be restored for retail shopping space with two upstairs apartments.

The fate of the building had been undetermined before the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a buyer Monday.

City officials also voted to give approval to the Audubon Society to display three flags outside its new downtown office. Mayor Laurence Leyens, who owns the building leased by the society, abstained from the vote.

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Developer Buford Daryl Hollingsworth will pay $5,000 for the two buildings at 1517-19 Washington St., commonly referred to as the Western Auto building. Hollingsworth’s proposal was selected by the board out of three submitted for the property.

The others were from George Jabour, who bid $750 for the purchase of the property, and William Sweet, a construction superintendent from Toronto, Canada, who did not submit a specific purchase amount. All three bids proposed retail space with upstairs apartments.

Under its ongoing downtown revitalization plan, the city had purchased the building for $48,000 from the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation. Under state law, the city can sell the property for less than the purchase price if the buyer pledges to invest more in the building than taxpayers paid.

Leyens, who has restored other downtown properties, has said the building would cost too much to repair and had suggested tearing it down to create a passage from Walnut to Washington streets. The city board first voted to withdraw the requests for proposals for the building, then accepted the proposals.

Hollingsworth’s proposal commits $100,000 to restoration and projects the property to generate $175,000 annually in sales after 24 months.

At the other end of downtown, the Audubon Society had sought permission from the city’s Architectural Review Board to place three flags on the building at 1208 Washington St., but were told they could only have two under the city code in the historic district.

The city board overruled the Architectural Review Board to grant permission.

“We have all sorts of rules and regulations in Vicksburg, but there comes a time when some of these need to be reviewed,” South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman said.

He said it was more city “bureaucracy” that kept the Audubon Society waiting three months to get a ruling about the flags. The matter was first brought to the Architectural Review Board which grants certificates of appropriateness for work in the historical district, but would have had to go back to the city’s Zoning Board if the two aldermen had not acted on the appeal.

North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young said the board had made the correct decision to deny the Audubon’s request based on the rules, but that the city board should make the decision and not send it back to the zoning board.